The Feast of the Epiphany

Many Christians around the world annually celebrate one of the most prominent Christian event known as the Feast of the Epiphany or “’Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages” on 6 January. As Iranians celebrate each year the Christmas and Christ’s birth, they well respect the Feast of Epiphany as well. The feast is a public holiday that celebrates the biblical tale in which the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, visit and honor the infant Jesus after his birth.

Three Wise Men and the Christ Child

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Three Wise Men observed the star of Christ rising in the sky. In order to meet the newborn Christ and honor him, they set out on a long journey from the east to Jerusalem where they met Herod the Roman king of Jerusalem. They told him about their prophecy and asked him to tell where this Jewish king lives: ““Where is he who has been king of the Jews? For we have seen his star at its rising, and have come to honor and worship him” (Matthew 2:1–2). Hearing this astonishing story, Herod summoned all the chief priests and inquired them where the Messiah was to be born. They replied: “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ” Herod asked the three Magi to go to Bethlehem and bring him word about the place of his birth so that he could go and pay his homage to the infant too. So, the three men followed the star they had seen at its rising. When the star stopped, they came across a house in which they found the little Christ with his mother Mary. This scene filled the three wise men with joy. They knelt down in front of the divine child and paid him homage. Then, from their treasure chests, they offered the child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They never announced the place of birth to the king Herod but rather returned to where they came from.

But who were these three men?

The Gospel of Matthew does not mention the names of the Three Wise Men. But, according to different traditions and legends, it seems that they were Iranian, although some testimonies considered one of them as Persian and the other two as Indian, Arabic or Armenian. For this matter, there is an Armenian tradition that identifies the “Magi of Bethlehem” as Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, and Gaspar of India. The word magi itself comes from the Greek word magos which has its origin in the Old Persian word ‘Magupati. This was a title given to Zoroastrian priests who were also experts in astrology. These priests had come across an unusual star in the sky in their studies, which then associated it with the prophecy that enunciated the birth of a special Savior in Israel.

Celebration of the Three Wise Men

This event, known as the Adoration of the Magi, or the Adoration of the Kings, is an outstanding event and an emblem of the rightfulness of the Christ among Christians. Every year during the Christmas Eve in different parts of the world this event is celebrated as part of the tradition associated with the birth of Christ.

There are also numerous outstanding works of art praising the Christ’s birth and his being visited by the Three Wise Men. One of these is the Three Wise Men Monument (Natal-Reis-Magos) in Natal, Brazil which is a source of pride for the Zoroastrians in Brazil and Iran.

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